Got Zits? High Glycemic Index Foods and Dairy Products Linked to Acne









A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found a connection between diet and acne, particularly from high glycemic load diets (refined carbohydrates) and dairy products, and that medical nutrition therapy can be an effective intervention in acne treatment.

More than 17 million Americans suffer from acne, mostly during their adolescent and young adult years. Acne influences quality of life, including social withdrawal, anxiety, and depression.

Since the late 1800s, research has linked diet to this common disease, identifying chocolate, sugar, and fat as particular culprits, but beginning in the 1960s, dermatologists started to disassociate the connection between diet and acne claiming that the diet-acne connection was a myth.

This study concluded that a high glycemic index/glycemic load diet and frequent dairy consumption are the leading factors that can  influence and aggravate acne.

Unfortunately the conventional medical community generally dismisses the possibility of diet therapy as an adjunctive treatment for acne and instead leans towards treating the symptoms.

What is it about a high glycemic index/glycemic load diet and frequent dairy consumption that can affect the skin as well as increase the risk for diabetes, cancer, heart disease, gall bladder disease and obesity?


High dietary glycemic loads have  been associated with increased serum levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of systemic inflammation.

Some strategies for lowering dietary glycemic load include:

• Increasing the consumption of non-starchy vegetables, nuts, legumes and fruits.

• Decreasing the consumption of starchy high-glycemic index foods like potatoes, white rice, and white bread

• Decreasing the consumption of sugary foods like cookies, cakes, candy, and soft-drinks


“One man’s food is another man’s poison”

People react differently to foods in a myriad of ways. They can have IgE immune mediated responses (classic allergy), IgG responses (also known as sensitivities) and intolerances (e.g. dairy and gluten).

These reactions also have inflammation in common and can influence or aggravate acne and numerous other diseases.

A comprehensive approach

People affected by acne want results immediately. There are a number of over the counter topical medications as well as some topical agents that are more natural that can be compounded by special pharmacies. Using these in conjunction with a low glycemic/dairy-free diet and also addressing   food reactions is very effective for the management and prevention of acne.



Jennifer Burris, William Rietkerk, Kathleen Woolf. Acne: The Role of Medical Nutrition Therapy. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2013; 113 (3): 416 DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.11.016

About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin